Scott Willis

Host, Reporter, Producer

I’ve always been enamored with the intimacy of radio.  It’s so personal.  It forces you to listen…and listen only.  No visual distractions.  I grew up listening to mostly top 40 radio in Detroit, with no shortage of entertaining DJ’s.  As a teenager, I discovered the area’s all news station.  I loved knowing what was going on, and the intensity with which they told stories.  I often wondered what it would be like to be the first to know what was happening, and then tell others.  Maybe that’s why I pursued a career in news. 

I would go on to serve as an intern at that all-news station, and it was amazing and maybe a little overwhelming to see what it took to put out a constant stream of news.  But something was missing.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I actually discovered Detroit’s public radio station at my alma mater.  What a difference!  You had time to write and tell engaging, meaningful stories, to be creative, all without the pressure to constantly crank out the news.  Quality over quantity.  That’s when I knew public radio was for me.  I was hooked.

I would hone my skills on and off for almost three years at WDET as an intern under the tutelage of a patient Assistant News Director. I produced daily stories for newscasts, but also was given the privilege of producing long-form features on topics that interested me, and that people knew very little about.  Now THAT was cool.  Right up my alley.  What budding reporter could ask for more?

I landed here in Syracuse in June 2001.  Today, I’ve come full circle, and now teach the craft to more than a dozen student reporters per week.  We work hard to choose informative stories, find the most engaging sound, and edit copy for clarity and accuracy. 

Outside of work, I spend time with my wife and little boy.  We like to take walks, travel, and read.  When I can, I’ll hop on my bike for a quick ride.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the honor and privilege of bringing WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners the news of the day during All Things Considered.  Thanks for listening.

Ways To Connect

Rob Romano/WAER News

  Not all of the art in Syracuse’s Westcott neighborhood was meant to be observed on an easel this past weekend. Ask any of the artists, and most will say they wanted to inspire spectators, or strike a chord with them...


Families in Syracuse’s Outer Comstock neighborhood are celebrating major improvements to Comfort Tyler park thanks in part to a long-time neighbor whose offices are across the street near Manley Field House.  The Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation’s Courts4kids program provided funding for a pair of basketball courts that complement a series of other renovations.  

  It’s the seventh such court upgrade at parks throughout the city.  Coach Jim Boeheim says it’s just their way of giving back to a community that’s rallied behind SU’s basketball program.

Scott Willis, WAER News / WAER News

  A Syracuse University counter-terrorism expert says the changes to federal surveillance powers will result in needed oversight and transparency of the government’s activity. In six months, the national security agency will no longer be able to collect bulk data from all domestic phone records.  Instead, the NSA will have to request the information on a case-by-case basis from the phone companies by obtaining a court order.  William Banks directs SU's Institute for National Security and Counter Terrorism, and says the additional oversight is welcome.

Banks says the balance between security and liberty is an elusive one, which can make it hard to cut back or justify the programs.  He says part of the problem is no one really knows how effective the phone record surveillance program has been.

From Earl Colvin's Facebook Page

  A pioneer of gay rights in Central New York in the 1970’s is being remembered for his persistence at a time when the LGBT community was virtually ostracized, or at least ignored.  Earl Colvin died May 24th at age 82, and will be honored with a ceremony Wednesday evening at city hall. 

Long-time activist Bonnie Strunk worked with Colvin on many early gay pride events.  She recalls when one media outlet learned of one gathering, and young kids began throwing stones.

Long-time Syracuse New Times reporter Walt Shepperd recalls Colvin as someone who had a way of putting people at ease during a time when the larger community was very clearly divided about gay rights .  Bonne Strunk says Colvin was never shy about sharing his opinion, and forging ahead.

Chris Bolt/WAER News

  Central New York Congressmember John Katko is optimistic that the Senate will ultimately approve legislation that restores surveillance authority of domestic phone records.  The provision of the USA Patriot Act expired Monday after Senator Rand Paul blocked an extension.  Katko says the USA Freedom Act already approved by the house is basically a renewal, but includes safeguards to prevent abuses of the data collected. 

Scott Willis / WAER News

About 100 law enforcement officials from a dozen different agencies wore the same uniform Thursday as they ran or walked from Camillus to the eastern end of Syracuse.  The 13-mile Torch Run raised $10,000  for New York’s Special Olympics athletes.

State Police Troop D spokesperson Jack Keller says it’s a fun event for a good cause.

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services / New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

  Syracuse and Onondaga County will share nearly $1.2 million in grant money on what experts say are programs proven to reduce gun violence and homicides. It’s the fourth highest award in the state among the 17 counties reporting 87 percent of the violent crime outside of New York City.  Mike Green heads the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which administers the grants.  He says jurisdictions have wide leeway in how they use the funding, with the caveat that any spending on additional officers or overtime goes to support specific, evidence-based strategies.

tobyshelley.com

Unlike 2011, Onondaga County voters will actually have someone other than Joanie Mahoney to choose from for county executive on the ballot this November.  The county democratic committee Thursday evening designated two-time sheriff candidate Toby Shelley to challenge two-term incumbent Republican Mahoney.

Scott Willis / WAER News

Of all the conflicts facing soldiers overseas, the Secretary of the Army says the budget is perhaps their biggest threat.  John McHugh stopped by Syracuse University Thursday to learn more about its innovative veteran and military-connected programs.  He says how the military responds to emerging issues such as ISIS’s growing control of Iraq, Russia’s activity in Eastern Europe, and others is dictated and affected by funding. 

   McHugh says the army can barely meet its current missions with 450,000 troops.

Rob Romano/WAER News

  The Green Party is prepared to run three candidates in this November’s elections for various local offices. Local Businessman Frank Cetera  will try to win the 2nd district seat on the Common Council.

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